Censorship Bad. I’m with him on that. The sole criterion for whether a joke is offensive is whether it is funny – that’s why so many people find my puns offensive, and why South Park gets away with mocking just about everyone.
But what disappointed me, was that Scruton (whose philosophical writing I read at university) reserved particular vitriol for feminists while defending sexist jokes:
“The literature of feminism is devoid of humor — and advisedly so, for if it ever were to employ this resource it would die laughing at itself”
Of course jokes about gender can be hysterical; though it’s unlikely I’d laugh too hard at the ‘women belong in the kitchen’ oeuvre, not because it denigrates women, but because describing women in this way is so hackneyed and unimaginative. I like jokes to surprise me, or provide an unexpected insight into the way the world is.
You can tell that Scruton’s accusation is part of the backlash against feminism, because you would (quite rightly) never see it aimed at other groups seeking equal rights. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela are ‘serious statesmen’. Germaine Greer is ‘humourless’. It taps in to a mindset that says that women are unattractive when they deal with weighty issues, and that we’d prefer to see them giggling at some sparkly jewellery than campaigning at a podium.
Ellen DeGeneres. A funny woman.
But I don’t have to labour the point of how unfair Scruton is being, I can simply point out how untrue his assertion is. If he had read any feminist writing recently (particularly online) he’d see that it is brimming with humour and wit. Jezebel, Feministing, and the F-Word are some of my favourites.
I’m sorry Roger, but if you haven’t encountered legions of intelligent, funny women in your long and varied career, then you can’t have been looking further than your own nose – your loss!